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Changing the Lenten plan

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I found myself cooking a rather large meal around noon on Ash Wednesday. It wasn’t my plan (my well-laid, liturgically-correct plan), but it was right and good. My boys have what my family fondly calls “super blood.” They are universal donors with a little extra something that makes them especially appreciated in the neonatal intensive care unit. Late in the morning, my husband, who was working from home, called downstairs with a “scheduling bulletin.” He had received an urgent appeal from our local blood bank, so he invited all who were eligible to go with him to roll up their sleeves for triple donations.

I decided that eating might be the appropriate next move. And so, fasting pushed aside, I cooked and they ate before they left to spend three hours donating blood and platelets. No one wants my blood, but I know what it is to wonder if the blood will be there when it is needed. So I stayed home, planned their evening meal and prayed for the people whose urgent need had set our day in a different motion. An urgent need for blood usually happens in the thin margin where life meets death.

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a season set aside to remember that we are human beings, born into a world broken by sin, and with that sin comes death. We remember that God has told us that we will toil upon this earth until we return to the ground because we were made from the dust and to the dust we shall return (Gen 3:19). As a community of believers in the risen Lord, we try to walk with him in the desert and then climb the hill to the cross, knowing all the while that we have all sinned and we all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We take these steps each year knowing how the journey ends. We know that we will endure for this penitential season and we will celebrate Easter. Lent is rooted in the hope of the resurrection.

It’s for that reason that even as we contemplate the dust, we should remember we are also made of blood and bone, sinew and sweat. We are here as an Easter people to be Christ’s hands and feet. We are here by his grace to do the good works he has ordained for us (Eph 2:10).

So, we make our plans. We decide upon our sacrifices; we give up Netflix and coffee and hot water in our showers. And then, about two and a half weeks into Lent, a lot of us give up giving things up. Restless and untethered, we wonder why this isn’t working as planned.

Surrender the plan to the savior — bloodied and bruised, arms stretched wide on the cross — who cares about your Netflix and your Starbucks only in the ways it affects your relationship with him. Surrender Lent. Pause. Take up one thing instead: dedicated time listening to his voice and asking Christ how you can be more like him. Maybe in so doing, other attachments lose their hold and fade away. Maybe not. One thing is certain.

If you spend more time with the Word, you will know more clearly how he intends for you to roll up your sleeves. You will see more clearly the opportunities to give and to serve and to bind the wounds of the body of Christ. Your soul desires a simple, intimate and supernatural experience with the living God. Your souls wants to be what it was created to be. It wants to be like him.

Ask yourself: Does your current plan for Lent help you to know Christ better and become more like him? It’s not too late to adjust accordingly.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019